The Best (and Toughest) Leadership Lesson


The best, and sometimes the toughest lesson leaders can learn is that great leadership isn’t about you. If you want to influence change and build a legacy, you need to think about others more than you think about yourself. Generosity—at every level—will shape how you view others and how others view you. This is something that requires a genuine and sincere effort on all fronts.

If your end game is just to boost yourself—your power, position, or prestige—then people will interact with you with that in mind. If your end game is to help others grow, learn, and develop—their needs, wants and desires—then people will be drawn to that. You may be able to fool some people for a season, but time and opportunity have a way of surfacing everyone’s true intentions.


I remember meeting with a new manager recently. He was frustrated that his team wasn’t falling in line with his vision and plan. I listened to him describe his situation for nearly an hour. When he finally stopped talking long enough to listen, I took the opportunity to share some observations with him. I explained that throughout his entire explanation, he placed himself at the center of the dialogue. I understood his perspective on the issue but knew very little about his team's. 

It’s a trap many leaders fall into. You spend so much time thinking and planning that you forget the humanity that exists within every team. Everyone wants to feel heard, valued, and considered. After all, the point of leadership is to develop new leaders, not grow your followers. The paradox is the more you focus on replicating leaders, the more followers you’ll have.


1.    See every person as a human being first. The people around you are not resources or merely full-time equivalents. They are people. They have feelings, families, and faith that the best is yet to come.

2.    Assume everyone wants to grow and accomplish big things. You are not where you are today just because of your knowledge, skills, and creativity. You are a product of the people who mentored you. Do the same for others.

3.    Think about others’ needs more than you think about your own. Consider the perspective of other people more than you consider your own. Your decisions impact others.

4.    Look for ways to set people up for a win. When you crossed the line into leadership, it became less about what you can do and more about how you can help others accomplish great things. Don’t try to lead and be the hero. It won’t work.

5.    Encourage others through the losses. No one likes to lose. But failure is part of success. Don’t just be there when they win, but be there when failure happens too.

The foundation begins with how your view others. Are the people around you a means to an end? Or are they an opportunity to invest for their future gain? This point, while seemingly simplistic, can’t be overlooked. It will seep into every conversation and interaction you have and will fundamentally shape how you interact with others and how they interact with you.

When you choose to live an others-focused lifestyle, you’ll be amazed at how your life will be enriched, and your happiness will go through the roof. It’s not about reaching the corner office, making the big bucks, or even living the good life—whatever that means. This life is your opportunity to invest in the potential for change by investing in the people around you.

CHALLENGE: List the name of three people who invested in you over the years. How is their influence benefiting you today? How can you do that for someone else this week?